Early development How can I help my baby develop? Enjoy the time you spend with your baby – this will help him/her to learn and develop. Get to know your baby, the things he/she likes and doesn't like, and respond to these. Let your baby know you are interested in his/her feelings, interests and needs. Talk with your baby, face to face. How do I do this? Your baby will show his/her interest by looking, making noises and moving his/her face and body. Your baby will need sleep and quiet times as well as lively, interactive times and you will get to know the signs when he/she needs these. Some of your baby's signs may be subtle at first, so try to respond even when you aren't sure what your baby wants, as you care for and touch your baby, and as your baby watches and listens. Spending time in face to face interaction with your baby is one of the best ways to help your baby learn. You can copy your baby's noises and expressions, exaggerate them, and wait for your baby to respond to you. You may need to wait a little for your baby to respond to you with a movement, wriggle, noise or expression, so be patient. Keep noticing and responding. As you get more practiced, you can show your baby new expressions, noises, things to touch and feel and see what your baby thinks of these – if he/she isn't keen, go back to following your baby's interests. Most new parents interact with their babies in this way quite naturally within the first few months. Play together At this stage your child will learn more from playing with you than they will from playing on their own or with other children. Follow your child's lead and support their learning in sensitive and responsive ways. Although much of this will happen naturally; you can always get tips from other parents, professionals and organisations in your country. Remember, not everything has to be Down syndrome specific. Any tried and tested ways that are used to help children who do not have Down syndrome will also help your child's development. Play often and have fun Playing frequently together, getting into your child's world, copying his/her play with your own toy that is the same as his/hers, repeating things your child enjoys, taking turns, showing your child you are having fun, being animated and playful are just some of the ways you can help your child learn. Show your child the next step if he/she seems ready As you play together you can show your child the next step and encourage your child to copy you. We know that children with Down syndrome learn especially well by being shown things. Toys, play positions and physical skills Your child may have small hands or arms, or not be quite as strong as other children. If so, look for small toys he/she can hold, 'cause and effect' toys that move easily - that don't need too hard a 'press' or 'pull' to make them work, and toys your child can reach to explore. Your child might play and learn more easily in some positions than in others. Getting a balance The demands of living with a young child can be overwhelming particularly when the fact that your child has Down syndrome may lead to extra appointments with doctors and therapists and anxiety in the early years. It's easy to become completely tied up with what is special or different about your child. It's important to strike a balance so that your needs and the needs of other family members are addressed. Remember that to some extent, all babies have to fit in with what is going on around them. While 'special' activities help, they are unlikely to be the main influence on your child's development. The most important experiences for a child with Down syndrome come from being a member of a happy, loving and active family – and from doing all the things that families normally do. Not everything has to be educational or meaningful. Let your child and the rest of the family relax, do something that has absolutely no educational function other than being fun.